One of the lesser-known holidays is National Bird Day, a day set aside to raise awareness of the dangers faced by both common and rare birds. Established in 1894, Bird Day was started by Charles Almanzo Babcock, the superintendent of schools in Oil City, PA, and was often celebrated in conjunction with Arbor Day. As the first US holiday dedicated to celebrating birds, Bird Day promotes Babcock’s dedication to bird conservation throughout the country.
One of the best ways to honor Bird Day is to spend some time bird watching and observing birds in their natural habitat. Turning our eye to the birds around us, here are a few facts about our fine feathered friends as well as area events for bird enthusiasts.
• Arizona’s state bird is the Cactus Wren. Arizona was the last state to choose its bird; deciding on a wren species native to the southwestern United States. The cactus wren is the largest wren in the country and can survive without freestanding water.
Light brown with a pale breast spotted with dark brown and a white stripe above its eye, the wren makes its home in Sonoran desert, often residing in a Saguaro cactus. They build large, football shaped nests comprised of cholla and other cacti. Their chug-chug-chug song is synonymous with the desert, used quite often in movies to depict an isolated remote desert scene.
• Audubon Arizona hosts a Saturday Morning Bird Walk at the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center. Join bird enthusiasts for a free guided bird walk and learn more about the birds in your backyard. Binoculars are available on loan.
For a walk on the wild side, you can learn about birds while enjoying Four Peaks brew on the 3rd Thursday of every month from 5:30-7:30 PM at Birds ‘n Beer. Held at the Nina Mason Pullium Rio Salado Audubon Center, you can RSVP at Audubon Arizona’s Facebook page.
• The 17th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is a free bird activity the whole family can enjoy. Spend at least 15 minutes counting birds in as many places and days as you can between February 14th through 17th. Then visit your list and location at www.birdsource.org. Last year over 100,000 people participated, counting birds in over 100 countries. Check out last year’s results here.
• Boyce Thompson Arboretum offers naturalist-guided tours on Monday, Friday, and Sunday from January through April. Learn about the Northern Cardinals residing in the area or catch a glimpse of the 230 bird species that have been spotted in the arboretum. No RSVP necessary, just show up at 11 AM for the 2-3 hour walking tour (included free with your $10 admission).
• Who can resist learning about our nation’s great bird, the Bald Eagle? Kids and adults alike will enjoy the Willow Bend Environmental Center’s Bald Eagle event on February 15th hosted by Arizona Game and Fish of Flagstaff. To learn more about this and other family-friendly programs, visit the Willow Bend Center’s website.
• If you’re interested in learning more about Bird Day, you can download a free eBook by its founder, Charles Babcock. Covering everything from bird conservation to lesson plans and poems aimed to enlighten children on the beauty of birds to a detailed field guide describing the features of many common birds, the book captures the true spirit of Bird Day.
“Be like the bird who, pausing in her flight awhile on boughs too slight, feels them give way beneath her, and yet sings, knowing she hath wings.” Victor Hugo.